9 Usability Lessons Hoteliers Can Learn from Hilton, & Skyscanner

By Sam Weston | April 30th, 2015

We crunch a lot of numbers in the hospitality industry, especially online where the wealth of data available can sometimes seem a little overwhelming. Evaluating Google Analytics gives us significant insight into the behaviour of website visitors, but we’re often left with questions;

  • Why is nobody booking our fantastic new 4-for-3 nights promotion?
  • Why do so many people leave the booking engine after selecting their room type?
  • Why does the rooms page have such a high bounce rate (those that leave the site after viewing only one page)?
  • What are peoples first impression of your website? (Remembering that site load time can affect site abandonment)

Sometimes the answers are obvious and the data will signpost a solution, but often there’s a nagging question that the data cannot answer in isolation or a ‘gut feel’ that something just isn’t right with the website.

An unbiased perspective on your website and/or booking engine can prove invaluable in answering these questions. User testing forces us to look at things differently; through the eyes of someone who may not be familiar with our business, or even our industry.

To highlight how user testing can be useful in finding opportunities to improve, we submitted three of the most popular sites in hospitality for a ‘peek‘ test; a hotel website, an OTA powerhouse and a metasearch giant. Arguably, the teams behind the Hilton website, and Skyscanner are at the top of their game, so what can we learn from the masters?

Hotel website –

Hilton Hotels User TestView the video here.

Lessons learned;

  1. Be flexible – include an option for those who are ‘flexible with dates’ on your site. Sometimes guests won’t have specific travel dates in mind and are hunting for a good deal; help them find one!
  2. Avoid confusion – Vaughan Denny recently commented that you mustn’t confuse the user in his 6 lessons that hotels must learn from ecommerce. In this example, the visitor wasn’t sure whether the popup displayed was from Hilton itself or a third party. It detracted from the booking process negatively, with the visitor commenting “it always makes me nervous when you get a popup…that you don’t know where it comes from”.
  3. Include search by attraction – Hilton allows you to view hotels near attractions. For leisure guests this is a great feature as they’ll often know a few attractions that they’d like to visit in a particular location. For example, on the Hilton website you can search Eiffel Tower and it will show you Hilton brand hotels near the iconic Paris attraction;

Search by Attraction

OTA – User TestView the video here.

Lessons learned;

  1. Use attractive imagery – it may seem obvious, but only use your best imagery on your homepage. It’s a visitors first impression and in this example, the first image they saw instantly appealed to the visitor as it looked ‘relaxing’. Also give consideration to what the visitor wants to see and not necessarily just what you want to show them.
  2. Powerful filtering – allows you to filter by Price, Star Rating, Deal, Meals, Property Type, Review Score, Facility, Room Facility, District and Chain. Whilst some of these may not be applicable to your business, empowering the visitor to easily refine their search may well aid conversion.
  3. Use notifications to catch the eye – The visitor is drawn to the ‘notification’ at the top of the page. No accidents here, has realised that we’ve become conditioned to notifications in little red boxes (think Facebook, your iPhone etc.). A clever idea, it draws the eye and entices the click. Notification

Metasearch –

Skyscanner User TestView the video here.

Lessons learned;

  1. Be instantly recognisable – The visitor was very quick to realise (in under 10 seconds) that this was “…a website where I can find a hotel”. The homepage states ‘Hotels, Apartments and Hostels’ – the purpose of the site is very clear. Quickly and clearly establish what you’re offering on your homepage to ensure your visitor isn’t confused.
  2. No imagery above the fold – Skyscanner’s website (for hotels) doesn’t show any imagery above the fold. This may actually be a conscious decision to draw attention to their tool to ‘find hotel deals’. The visitor comments that “there’s a lot of white space” – again, this is a tactic often employed to ensure that attention is drawn to key calls-to-action on a page.
  3. Consider localisation – The URL submitted to test was You could argue that perhaps Skyscanner could have redirected the US visitor to automatically (using their IP address), but regardless, she found her way to the US pages. This is where it got clever, note how Skyscanner localises the navigation to read ‘car rental’ for the US market and ‘car hire’ for the UK market. The distinction between the two may seem a small semantic detail, but it clearly caused the visitor some confusion in this example. Where possible, tailor your content to the audience; consider different languages, terminology and browsing behaviours for international visitors.

It’s important to note that these are the results of a single user test, from a single visitor to the site. This obviously leads to subjective results, so please consider this before making any changes to your website.

For more comprehensive and objective hotel website usability testing, please get in touch to see how we can help you.

Sam Weston

Sam Weston is Marketing Manager for 80 DAYS, a creative & digital marketing agency, specialising in the luxury travel sector.

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